BACKGROUND: ‘The Troubles’
More than 3,600 lives were lost, and an estimated 50,000…
Coleraine, Northern Ireland — The church has always, either by choice or circumstance, been challenged by societal change. I believe it is part of our survival mechanism to stay relevant to cultural adaptations while preserving the principles of our faith.
However, some of the changes facing faith groups today have to do with morality, which, from the faith perspective, is defined by the narrative of our Scriptures.
Essential to dealing with these matters is dialogue. To some, this is the art of common sense. To others, it is regarded as a compromise to the principles of their faith.
And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’
— Mark 16:15-16, New King James Version
I am sympathetic to those who feel they need to fight the battle against error behind the walls of their denomination while they remain vigilant against breaches in their defenses.
I remain confused, however, as to how one implements a strategy of evangelism without responding to the basic call of our commission to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” To do otherwise is to allow the seeds of hate and division to take root in our communities.
Recently, I invited a number of leaders from various religious groups to consider a program of dialogue in which we discuss some of the current issues affecting our faith assemblies.
A presentation and discussion will launch the program as we look at the issue of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Groups represented will be Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Baha’i.
If you are not already doing so, let me encourage you to stimulate dialogue in the spirit of love and respect. We cannot ignore the issues facing our churches today. The narrative of our faith is often challenging. Nonetheless, it is a guiding light which enables us to navigate through life.
To those who have a focus on restoration of the New Testament church, be assured that it happens every time a seed of truth is planted and received in the hearts of men and women. At least in Ireland it is.
Your prayers are always appreciated.
BERT RITCHIE preaches for the Coleraine Church of Christ. He is an organizer and participant in interfaith efforts to foster reconciliation and peace in Northern Ireland, divided by animosity and violence during the years of The Troubles. He and fellow Christians organize Camp Shamrock, an annual gathering that brings children from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds together to learn about Jesus.
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